Story type: Essay
Boys should never be afraid or ashamed to do little odd jobs by which to acquire money. Too many boys are afraid, or at least seem to be embarrassed when asked to do chores, and thus earn small sums of money. In order to appreciate wealth we must earn it ourselves. That is the reason I labor. I do not need to labor. My parents are still living, and they certainly would not see me suffer for the necessities of life. But life in that way would not have the keen relish that it would if I earned the money myself.
Sawing wood used to be a favorite pastime with boys twenty years ago. I remember the first money I ever earned was by sawing wood. My brother and myself were to receive $5 for sawing five cords of wood. We allowed the job to stand, however, until the weather got quite warm, and then we decided to hire a foreigner who came along that way one glorious summer day when all nature seemed tickled and we knew that the fish would be apt to bite. So we hired the foreigner, and while he sawed, we would bet with him on various “dead sure things” until he got the wood sawed, when he went away owing us fifty cents.
We had a neighbor who was very wealthy. He noticed that we boys earned our own spending money, and he yearned to have his son try to ditto. So he told the boy that he was going away for a few weeks and that he would give him $2 per cord, or double price, to saw the wood. He wanted to teach the boy to earn and appreciate his money. So, when the old man went away, the boy secured a colored man to do the job at $1 per cord, by which process the youth made $10. This he judiciously invested in clothes, meeting his father at the train in a new summer suit and a speckled cane. The old man said he could see by the sparkle in the boy’s clear, honest eyes, that healthful exercise was what boys needed.
When I was a boy I frequently acquired large sums of money by carrying coal up two flights of stairs for wealthy people who were too fat to do it themselves. This money I invested from time to time in side shows and other zoological attractions.
One day I saw a coal cart back up and unload itself on the walk in such a way as to indicate that the coal would have to be manually elevated inside the building. I waited till I nearly froze to death, for the owner to come along and solicit my aid. Finally he came. He smelled strong of carbolic acid, and I afterward learned that he was a physician and surgeon.
We haggled over the price for some time, as I had to carry the coal up two flights in an old waste paper basket and it was quite a task. Finally we agreed. I proceeded with the work. About dusk I went up the last flight of stairs with the last load. My feet seemed to weigh about nineteen pounds apiece and my face was very sombre.
In the gloaming I saw my employer. He was writing a prescription by the dim, uncertain light. He told me to put the last basketful in the little closet off the hall and then come and get my pay. I took the coal into the closet, but I do not know what I did with it. As I opened the door and stepped in, a tall skeleton got down off the nail and embraced me like a prodigal son. It fell on my neck and draped itself all over me. Its glittering phalanges entered the bosom of my gingham shirt and rested lightly on the pit of my stomach. I could feel the pelvis bone in the small of my back. The room was dark, but I did not light the gas. Whether it was the skeleton of a lady or gentleman, I never knew; but I thought, for the sake of my good name, I would not remain. My good name and a strong yearning for home were all that I had at that time.
So I went home. Afterwards, I learned that this physician got all his coal carried up stairs for nothing in this way, and he had tried to get rooms two flights further up in the building, so that the boys would have further to fall when they made their egress.